When You Leave a Practice

September 1, 2008

I left my internal medicine group to join a specialty practice. It was not a completely amicable parting. For the first month, there was no way for patients at my old practice to know I no longer worked there or where I’m currently located. I tried to send out letters to my patients, but over half were returned because of incorrect address information.I don’t think the group is that interested in retaining my patients, as most are specialty patients they aren’t prepared to handle. Anyway, if patients call and leave a message that they’re sick or need to be seen, with the impression that I still work there, and no one calls them back, is the group liable if there are any subsequent problems, or am I? Even when I worked there, messages often weren’t returned.

Question: I left my internal medicine group to join a specialty practice. It was not a completely amicable parting. For the first month, there was no way for patients at my old practice to know I no longer worked there or where I’m currently located. I tried to send out letters to my patients, but over half were returned because of incorrect address information.

I don’t think the group is that interested in retaining my patients, as most are specialty patients they aren’t prepared to handle. Anyway, if patients call and leave a message that they’re sick or need to be seen, with the impression that I still work there, and no one calls them back, is the group liable if there are any subsequent problems, or am I? Even when I worked there, messages often weren’t returned.

Answer: In terms of liability, your best bet always is to contact the risk management office at the malpractice carrier who currently covers you. They’ll guide you and their advice is best since they’ll be the ones to defend you should something go wrong.

You certainly can’t force the old practice to put your number on the outgoing message. But you can try to have a friendly chat with the practice owners and just ask that patients needing you be referred to you. This need not mean a message on the outgoing message; it could just be an on-the-spot referral when folks call in.

I realize your departure was not entirely friendly, but if they don’t want the patients, why wouldn’t they pass them to you?

Here’s the other angle: What are you doing to market to all patients in the area now that you are with this new practice? That message will presumably reach old and new patients, and you’ll grow your base regardless of what your old practice decides to do. Just go do it instead of wasting more restless nights worrying about your old practice.